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Notes in History 


laws and in the imposition of duties the authority of Congress 
was not involved, but these ordinarily sovereign prerogatives 
were exercised solely with regard to the interests of Maryland. 
In Maryland, therefore, before the ratification of the Articles 
of Confederation the sovereignty which the British Crown had 
possessed reverted to the state government. In this particular 
state, Congress assumed such power only with the express 
approval of the legislative authority. This conclusion agrees 
with the doctrine advanced by the advocates of state sovereignty. 

By H. M. Wagstaff. 

No adequate account of the secession movement in North 
Carolina has hitherto appeared. The information for this study 
is found, for the most part, in the newspapers of the time, in the 
manuscript letter-books of the governors, the manuscript files of 
the State Council, the letters of Vance and others, published 
addresses of T. L. Clingman, the printed journals of the assembly, 
and convention journals. Personal evidence of men now living 
who were prominent during the period has also greatly aided the 
inquiry. New light has been thrown upon the period and the 
results may be summarized as follows : 

With the overthrow of the national whig party just after the 
Compromise Measures of 1850, were enacted into law, North 
Carolina passed from a whig regime of fifteen years' duration 
and became democratic in both her national and state politics. 
Slavery agitation incident to the compromise was influential in 
her return to particularism, but the immediate cause of demo- 
cratic ascendency was the blow dealt to whig solidarity by a 
suffrage reform movement of the democrats begun in 1848. 
Eastern whigs were favorable to the measure while western whigs 
desired a more sweeping reform involving the change from the 
federal to a white basis of representation in the General Assembly. 
The whigs thus divided, the democrats elected David Settle 


48 Johns Hojikins University Circular [528 

Reid as governor in 1858. Reid was a strict constructionist of 
the radical school. For several years, however, the assembly, 
though democratic, refused to sanction a truculent attitude toward 
congressional legislation on slavery. 

With the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854, disin- 
tegration of the state whig party was complete. The ' ' know- 
nothing ' ' party served as a temporary shelter for the whigs 
until the Kansas-Nebraska Act had completed the sectionaliza- 
tion of the democrats. 

Actuated by a fear of the danger of particularism to the Union, 
the people of North Carolina began a return in 1858 to the 
conservative principles which had been abandoned during the 
excitement of the Kansas struggle. This movement rapidly 
developed strength and continued its course despite the agitation 
renewed afresh by John Brown's raid and the stubborn speaker- 
ship contest in congress. The electoral vote of the state went to 
Breckenridge, democrat, rather than to Bell, unionist, because 
the people believed Bell had no chance of election and that 
Breckenridge' s success would furnish the only guarantee of the 
cotton states remaining in the Union. 

Breckenridge' s defeat and the subsequent secession of the 
cotton states divided the people into union and disunion parties. 
Two theories of the federal constitution were held in the state. 
(1) The national theory had the adherence of a large portion 
of the old whigs and their best known leaders. (2) The com- 
pact theory was held by the whole body of democrats and a few 
whigs. Among the democrats, however, were two factions. One 
faction demanded immediate secession ; the other opposed seces- 
sion until the rights of the South should be more specifically 
attacked. This conservative faction acted with the national 
theory whigs and made up a majority which held the state 
quiescent and awaiting further development in the national 

Despite the formation of the confederate government by the 
lower southern states, the people of North Carolina voted down 
a convention to consider secession and the unionists remained 
dominant until the attack on Fort Sumter. "With Lincoln's call 

529] Notes in History 49 

for troops the conservative democrats joined the original secession 
faction and made a majority for secession. The national theory 
men were now also prepared to withdraw from the Union, but 
preferred to do so under the form of revolution. A second 
convention was called without its reference to the people. This 
convention met May 20, and was found to contain secessionists 
and revolutionists respectively in the ratio of two to one. After 
the test vote the ordinance of secession was passed unanimously. 
Secession had become an accomplished fact, but only after every 
effort to remain with honor in the Union had failed. 

By D. S. Fkeeman. 

This investigation is based upon the printed journals ; contem- 
porary periodicals and pamphlets ; the manuscript Archives of 
Virginia ; personal interviews with surviving members of the 
convention ; and manuscript memoirs from many sections of the 
state. The presence of three different parties in the state when 
the members of the convention were elected led to the formation 
of three parties in that body, which did not follow the regular 
national party lines. The secessionists as their name implies 
advocated separation from the union with various provisos ; the 
Unionists were for remaining in the Union at any cost, while the 
third division, or middle men, were convinced that the proper 
policy was to remain in the Union as long "as is consistent with 
the honor of the state." It was the final union of the secession- 
ists and middle men on the question of opposition to coercion 
which brought about secession. 

A like number of questions had to be decided by the conven- 
tion : should the Peace Conference compromise be accepted ; 
should any plans for border conference or confederacy be accepted ; 
and should the state permit coercion of the seceded states ? In 
considering these questions in order, three more or less distinct 
periods are discernible in the convention. Until the report of 


Johns Hopkins University Circular 


the Peace Conference was made public, many had believed that 
some settlement was possible. A desire to await the outcome of 
this body certainly acted as a deterrent on the convention. Even 
the secessionists were willing for the most part to defer action 
until the result of the conference was known. With the return 
of the commissioners and the declaration of a number of them 
that the conference result was a ' f hollow sham, ' ' this hope was 
virtually swept away, and, though the Peace Conference proposals 
were not formally rejected until March 25, they were but little 
considered after Congress declined to take them up. Following 
close upon the inauguration of Lincoln came the report of the 
Committee on Federal Relations appointed during the earliest 
days of the convention. The report was timed to alleviate the 
uneasiness occasioned by Lincoln's inaugural, but as it was the 
result of endless compromises and gave rise to several minority 
reports, it was attacked from all sides. For the most part the 
middle men and some of the Unionists favored this report, but it 
was opposed vigorously by the extremists of both sides. Much 
amended, and attacked at every step, it was passed section by 
section until the change of front of some of the middle men intro- 
duced the third period. This change was due to a dissatisfaction 
with the delay of the convention, a dissatisfaction largely strength- 
ened by the sentiment of a great part of the state, and secondly, 
by the growing predominance of the issue of coercion. On April 
6, W. B. Preston, an erstwhile strong Unionist, proposed that a 
committee wait on President Lincoln to see if he still was firm on 
the question of coercion. The Union party exhausted every effort 
in attempting to defeat this measure, but supported by many 
middle men as well as secessionists its passage followed two days 
later. With this event, and both secessionists and middle men 
united against coercion, the outcome was logical. On the 12th 
came the news of the attack on Sumter, three days later the com- 
mittee to wait on the President reported, and secession followed 
on the 17th. It will be observed that during the first period, 
with maintenance of the union the chief issue, the Union party 
was naturally the leader, aided by the support of the middle 
men ; during the second period with border state conference and 




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